Breaking In

Burt Reynolds has tweaked his he-man image before; he was Cosmo's first nude male centerfold. But this? In his latest, a wry comedy about thieves, Burt sports a potbelly, gray hair and yellow teeth and limps around on a game leg. Don't panic. It's makeup. Reynolds's Ernie Mullins is an old-timer from Portland, Oregon, a safecracker who can't keep pace with the new technology but can't resist one last big job that could finance his retirement. His one mistake is hooking up with a young amateur, Mike LeFevre, puckishly played by Casey Siemaszko. Mike is the kind of wacko who busts into houses to read other people's mail and short-sheet their beds. It's Ernie's job to make Mike a pro.

Chosen to close the prestigious New York Film Festival, the film was directed by Scottish master Bill Forsyth ("Local Hero") and written by American maverick John Sayles ("Return of the Secaucus Seven"). Classy company for an actor who's been squandering his talent and our time on beefcake baloney since the heyday of "Deliverance." Reynolds, Forsyth and Sayles form a combustibly comic combination. But there's no hard sell. That's what makes this movie such a nonstop pleasure. Forsyth and Sayles have liberated the actor in Reynolds from the smirking blowhard. Burt proves himself a world-class charmer. Ditto the film.